Comparative fault is a critical concept in personal injury law. It pertains to the method by which fault is allocated among multiple parties involved in an accident or incident that results in damage or injury. This doctrine varies widely from state to state, with some states adopting a comparative fault approach, while others use a contributory negligence model. In this context, it’s helpful to consider and compare the comparative fault rules as applied in two states – Missouri and Illinois.

Starting with Missouri, the state follows a system known as “pure comparative fault.” This means that in a personal injury case, a plaintiff’s recoverable damages are reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault, regardless of how high that percentage may be. If, for instance, a plaintiff is found to be 70% at fault for an accident, they can still recover 30% of their damages from other parties. This may seem generous, but it’s important to understand that the plaintiff’s recovery will always be reduced by their degree of fault. This approach is designed to allocate the liability fairly, even when the injured party bears substantial responsibility for their own injuries.

Missouri’s pure comparative fault model can lead to complex and nuanced legal arguments, as the allocation of fault is not always clear-cut. Attorneys must therefore marshal their best evidence and arguments to persuade the court of their client’s degree of fault relative to other parties. Despite its complexity, this system seeks to ensure a fair outcome, distributing the burden of an accident in accordance with each party’s degree of fault.

Illinois, on the other hand, uses a somewhat different model, known as “modified comparative fault.” Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages only if they are found to be less than 50% at fault for the accident. In other words, if a plaintiff is 50% or more at fault, they are barred from recovery. Similar to Missouri, Illinois reduces a plaintiff’s recoverable damages in proportion to their percentage of fault – but only if the plaintiff is less than 50% at fault.

The modified comparative fault rule in Illinois seeks to strike a balance between the pure comparative fault rule (used in states like Missouri) and the harsher rule of contributory negligence, which completely bars a plaintiff from recovery if they bear any degree of fault. Illinois’ approach thus reflects a compromise, aiming to ensure that plaintiffs who bear substantial, but not the majority of, responsibility for their injuries can still recover damages.

These two models – pure comparative fault in Missouri and modified comparative fault in Illinois – offer different responses to the complex question of how to distribute liability in personal injury cases. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, but both aim to achieve fairness and accountability. Understanding these nuances is crucial for attorneys practicing personal injury law, as well as for plaintiffs and defendants navigating the legal process in these states.